June 4 Update from Christina Scheppelmann
Even as our community is reeling from the events that have shaken our country in the last week and we at Seattle Opera continue to work towards becoming an anti-racist organization, we still must plan for our future as the COVID-19 crisis persists. Like most of the world, Seattle Opera continues to face significant challenges because of the COVID-19 crisis, among them closure of public spaces, travel restrictions, and social distancing practices. Through all of this, we remain focused on our mission of drawing our community together through opera, a unique blend of music and drama that speak to our hearts and minds, especially in difficult times like these. However, we need to balance how we fulfill our mission with the realities of our times.The start of our season
Given the restrictions in place, it is with sadness that we announce the cancellation of Pagliacci
and Cavalleria rusticana
, the first production of the 2020/21 season at McCaw Hall scheduled for August. This is another deep loss for our company, our artists, and for you—our community of opera, music, and arts lovers. We are disappointed to witness the closed doors of cultural institutions across the region, an inevitable consequence of the danger the COVID-19 virus poses for all of us working in the arts and for all of you, our audience members. Though we are not at all alone in this decision, it doesn’t make it any easier.
Even as local public health and government officials constantly monitor the coronavirus, the decision to allow large public events like concerts, sports, and conventions will not happen in time for us to successfully launch the first opera of the season. Rehearsals and pre-production work are scheduled to start in a few short weeks and we cannot complete our work within the guidelines expected to be in place at that time. As you might imagine, our singers, musicians, and technicians need to work in close proximity and we need to protect all of them as well as all of you. More than 220 artists, musicians, and crew are impacted by this cancellation.Your tickets will be transferred
While this is disheartening news, I want you to know that we have scheduled La bohème
in August 2021. We hope to have as much of the cast from this past May’s production join us as possible. If your package includes Pagliacci
and Cavalleria rusticana
your tickets will be automatically transferred to August 2021 for a La bohème
performance and requires no action from you. I hope you can think of this adjustment as an extension of our 2020/21 season. If you would like to explore other options for your tickets, please visit our Performance Cancellation
page. We will also reschedule Pagliacci
and Cavalleria rusticana
in a future season. To confirm your seating assignment for the 20/21 season, you can check your account online
.Plans for the rest of the season
As an early subscriber, we realize your intent is to see the entire 2020/21 season and we plan to present as much of it as possible. Last year’s opening of the Opera Center, next door to McCaw Hall, could not be more important than it is now. With spaces designed for small events—audiences of up to 250 people—the Opera Center is an integral part of our reopening plan for the season and will likely come before McCaw Hall opens. The Center’s Tagney Jones Hall will be used for operas, recitals, talks, masterclasses, and other experiences to fulfill our mission with great creativity. You, our subscribers, will be the very first to enjoy live opera and music again. We ask for your understanding, flexibility and patience during this time as we navigate how we can gather in person again safely. We will be in touch as soon as we know more.Seattle Opera online
For now we will continue with our digital programming. The first Songs of Summer recital with Angel Blue, which premiered on May 28, is now available on our website. On Saturday mornings, past Seattle Opera performances are on the airwaves on KING FM and will continue throughout the summer. Learn more about our digital programming on our website.The financial picture
You may recall my email from earlier in April in which I announced that we received a $2.3 million loan through the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program. That funding, intended to cover 8 weeks of payroll, will come to an end by mid-June. That combined with the delay of the start of the season means the unfortunate significant reduction of the year-round administrative staff. 55% of our administrative staff will be furloughed later this month. These changes, coupled with pay reductions for those staff that remain, are a difficult decision but ones that are critical in order to manage the resources you have invested in us to create opera and work through this challenging period.
Thank you for being part of this company. You—Seattle Opera audiences, supporters, and fans—are the reason we exist; the reason we enrich our community with opera, with music, with singing, with theater, and with great emotions. Your continued support is crucial and deeply appreciated.
May 27 Update from Christina Scheppelmann
Let me start with an assurance and something I would like you to know: turbulent times are certainly not new to me. Today’s pandemic is unprecedented, though it reminds me of two critical points of my career when it was essential to depend on core values, flexibility, keeping calm in the storm and the resilience of the human spirit. The first was in 1994. Early in my career, a fire completely destroyed the Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, where I was serving as a young arts administrator. The attacks of 9-11 were the second. At the time, I was starting work at Washington National Opera. Throughout my life-long pursuit of opera, I’ve experienced the impacts of economic downturns, political strife, and unpredictable challenges. Through them all, the most productive principles were to focus on the music, the creativity, and the resilience of people and audiences. And to remember that possibilities are realized when we work together.
Everyone at Seattle Opera is planning and working towards the day when we can come together to share the stories and voices you love—whether in McCaw Hall or Tagney Jones Hall at the Opera Center.
Because of restrictions placed on large gatherings in places like McCaw Hall, we’ve pivoted to presenting opera via the internet and radio broadcasts. I hope you are enjoying our Saturday morning presentations of past Seattle Opera productions on KING FM. I invite you to log on to watch the newly produced Songs of Summer web recitals; the first one is with Angel Blue this Thursday, May 28, at 7 PM. The weekly programs will be available on our website as well as Facebook and YouTube for two weeks after premiering.
Furthermore, while the McCaw Hall stage remains dark, we’ve continued opera programs as well as maintained relationships with the community we serve.
- We have continued our partnership with Path with Art. The Veteran’s Chorus from our fall production of The Falling and the Rising continues to rehearse (via Zoom) and new veterans have joined the group.
- Students from our Teen Vocal Studio continue to hone their voices through ZOOM meetings as well. They will culminate the year-long program with a June 20th virtual recital before many of the seniors head off to study voice at the University of Washington, the Boston Conservatory, and the Longy School of Music at Bard College, just to name a few. Congratulations!
- Opera Talk programs have transitioned from the Opera Center to online and participation has more than quadrupled the in-person attendance.
On the financial side of the company, the eight weeks of our temporary funding from the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program will end on June 16. Opera has always existed through the generosity of patrons and institutions that invest in it. Seattle Opera exists to create opera for you and we thank you for your support.
As to the future, we remain in close communications with the Mayor’s Office and other public officials to determine when we can safely offer public performances. I’m deeply mindful of your health as well as the safety of the singers, musicians, backstage technicians, and front of house staff. You can trust that we are exploring every possible scenario and circumstance to bring you the voices you love, considering everything from space limitations to travel restrictions to social distancing practices to artist availability to budget concerns. There is plenty to consider, but I am committed to making the difficult decisions needed in order to steward this company’s future so that opera can continue and evolve in Seattle.
Since the beginning of this global crisis and tragedy, my foremost goal—and the desire of everyone at Seattle Opera—has been to continue sharing the music and stories we’re all passionate to hear. Nevertheless, we can’t do it alone. We need you. We need your enthusiasm, investment, and participation. Opera will survive, telling stories through singing and playing instruments will continue. Maybe not in all the ways we are accustomed, but opera and the art at large will return and thrive.
With gratitude and hope,
May 21 Update for La bohème TicketHolders
Dear La bohème ticketholders,
Now that the time when La bohème performances would have taken place has passed, we will be working to finalize La bohème ticket-holder accounts. At this time, if you did not already contact Audience Services regarding how you would like the value of your tickets to be handled, it will be moved on to your account as a credit that can be used at a later date for future ticket purchases. The credit will expire December 31, 2021 (an extension from an earlier posted date). This value can be used for any Seattle Opera performance or event we have on sale at McCaw Hall or the Opera Center or donated to Seattle Opera. We will follow up with you via email in the coming months with instructions on how to use your credit. This may not be applied toward previous purchases or to payment plans already in progress. This credit may be used for performances in 2021 or 2022 that are available for sale prior to December 31, 2021.
We are happy to discuss other options with you at your convenience. Please call us at 206.389.7676 Monday–Friday, 10 AM–6 PM (hours subject to change) or let us know a good time to contact you by emailing email@example.com.
Thank you for your support of Seattle Opera. We are eager to see you again and share the joy of music and opera with all of you as soon as possible.
Audience Services Department
May 1 Update from Christina Scheppelmann
Heartbreak, generosity, tragedy, and wonderful acts of kindness—themes found in our most riveting and beloved operas—are mirroring these unimaginable times. What we’re dealing with is truly operatic, an as yet unfinished opus.
As this pandemic unfolds, we’re currently in Act 2. The entire world is navigating a global pandemic and economic shutdown. We have been doing everything we can to preserve Seattle Opera and navigate safely and prudently through this situation over the next months: salary cuts, furloughs, reduced business operations, and grant applications for aid. As this act ends we have managed to work some glimmers of hope into the script.
The company is connecting with the community in various and new ways—online recitals with artists our audience knows and enjoys, radio broadcasts, video clips, and podcasts. Every member of the company plays a part as we move anxiously forward to get to the end of this script, and the happy end that we always wish for.
In this State of the Company letter, I can only report our current condition and assure you that I am doing what’s best to sustain Seattle Opera. It’s also clear to me that you’re doing everything you can, too. Your ongoing encouragement and generosity lifts our spirits, drives our creativity and solidifies our determination to keep going strong. Thank you!
I’m extremely grateful that more than 5,000 La bohème tickets have been donated to the company. This needed revenue is a lifeline, supporting our online programming and our staff. Also aiding us, as always, are donations from individuals and organizations. We received a generous $250,000 emergency grant from the Hearst Foundation to fund general operations. We were among a small group of cultural institutions and the University of Washington to receive funding in Seattle. This grant, coupled with special donations from those of you who can contribute during this difficult time, is keeping opera in our lives. I’m deeply grateful for all this emergency support.
Last week, as you may have read in the news, we received notification that Seattle Opera is the recipient of a $2.3 million Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan. The funding will be used to cover some of the La bohème production payroll—salaries for approximately 180 individuals, such as orchestra musicians, chorus singers, and backstage crew members. Additionally, furloughed administrative staff are being rehired and salaries restored for the eight weeks covered by the PPP. Meanwhile all department directors and I will continue receiving reduced salaries as part of our overall efforts to control and reduce expenses in order to keep the company going.
The infusion of funds will help temporarily retain our highly skilled workforce—both artistic and administrative—as we develop strategies for the future. It’s important for me to emphasize that this is temporary funding which lasts eight weeks. I am not expecting this funding to be renewed and therefore, we can expect furloughs and pay reductions again after eight weeks. However, this funding will provide immediate salary funding and will help a lot.
Sadly, initiatives announced in previous State of the Company letters are currently on hold. Among them are the ALANNA Fellowship Program, a partnership with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Symphony; the school opera tour of Earth to Kenzie; and the Opera America Conference planned for May in Seattle.
Members of your Seattle Opera community are also pitching in to make a difference in Seattle. Since March 31, our talented and industrious costume staff has produced more than 5,000 protective facemasks for health care professionals at Providence St. Joseph Health. In addition, veteran Seattle Opera chorus member Stephen Wall is inspiring his Ballard neighbors from his front lawn by singing opera favorites.
I’m sure you’re interested in my thoughts about the start of the season in August. Seattle Opera is like other arts organizations—waiting to learn about new public gatherings policies and estimated timeframes from state and local officials. No one can predict how this crisis will end, but unlike so many opera plots, we’re doing everything we can to have an exciting future, not a tragic finale. In preparation for when social distancing and stay at home policies are relaxed, we’re thinking about ways to present events and performances in the Opera Center’s smaller Tagney Jones Hall and rehearsal studios. In addition, we are considering numerous production scenarios for McCaw Hall. Decisions about our next production will be made in early summer.
In the meantime, I invite you to take part in our online performances, interviews, video clips, and other digital offerings at Opera at Home. Log on to hear Sunday Songs with Sarah and Jay, a three part recital series featuring mezzo-soprano Sarah Larsen and pianist Jay Rozendaal. You can also tune to Classical KING FM 98.1 to hear previous McCaw Hall performances of Tosca, The Magic Flute, Madame Butterfly, and many others. Throughout the spring and summer broadcasts will be available on the radio and at king.org every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. These broadcasts are also made possible through a special agreement with AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) and Seattle Symphony and Opera Player’s Organization. Many thanks go to all the artists who make Seattle Opera what it is, especially those who allow us to share their talents on the airwaves during these unprecedented times.
In the not too distant future, we will measure this moment in history at two points—the time before the COVID-19 and time after. You should know that every member of the company is devoted to crossing these points in ways that will support Seattle Opera’s future. I’m looking forward to the day when we can gather as a community to share the music and drama we love.
With gratitude and hope,
March 25 Update from Christina Scheppelmann
We are all living through an extremely challenging period and you can probably imagine that Seattle Opera as much as the entire cultural sector overall is facing challenges and difficult decisions. Our work and mission is to bring people together to enjoy and share the beauty and emotions of the human voice, music, and opera. Nevertheless the health and well-being of our patrons, artists, staff, volunteers, and the larger community remain our most important priority, along with compliance with directives from public health officials and government leaders.
Therefore, it is with deep regret and sadness that I write to you to announce that we will cancel all performances of our final production of the season at McCaw Hall—Puccini’s La bohème. We have planned for this production for more than two years and are in dismay over this necessary decision. This is a devastating loss for our company, artists, and community of opera lovers. We also know that we are not alone in making difficult decisions like this as cancelations have become the news of the day and many of my colleagues are faced with having to make similar decisions. It does not make it easier for anybody.
After careful consideration and monitoring of current developments, the continued spread of COVID-19 as well as recommended social distancing mean there is no safe way for the more than 100 people involved in this production to come together to prepare in the coming weeks for a May 2 opening. Further, it is not clear when the large group gathering bans will be lifted, which also impacts our ability to prepare and perform. In addition to activities at McCaw Hall, all public programs at the Opera Center have been canceled for the next two months through May 31. This includes lectures, tours, workshops, and public programs. In the meantime, we are publishing video and audio content regularly for you to enjoy digitally at seattleopera.org/athome.
We look forward with anticipation and hope to our 2020/21 season. We are eager to see you again and to continue bringing music and opera to you and the community as soon as possible. We know opera and music can bring hope and provide solace during challenging times. It’s why we are seeing such beautiful outpourings of music coming from around the world in the past week. From Italians singing Verdi’s “Va pensiero” from their balconies to musicians sharing intimate solo pieces from their homes, music is providing some peace through these weeks. We will get through this difficult period and when we emerge on the other side of this, the desire for opera, music, and art to provide healing will never be stronger. The absence of it will have reminded us how essential music and the arts are to us. Seattle Opera will need your financial support to continue to be there for you.
You are likely aware that Seattle Opera is a fiscally lean organization and you know the dramatic impact that this cancelation will have on Seattle Opera’s health. This is a devastating loss of income for your opera company. This cancelation means 100s of artists and crew will lose employment this spring. To save resources, we are also putting some administrative staff on furlough and the remaining staff will be subject to significant salary reductions including myself.
If you have tickets to La bohème, we will be sending you further information about ticket options within the next day or two. One way that you can help Seattle Opera right now is to donate the value of your tickets back to the company. Please, would you consider this as your first choice to help our non-profit arts institution? Choosing to donate your ticket value is something you can do that will help sustain Seattle Opera through this difficult time. It will allow us to continue planning in the coming months to create the music and drama that you love and will contribute to keeping the arts alive and vibrant in Seattle.
You—Seattle Opera audiences, supporters, and fans—are the reason we exist; the reason we can continue to enrich our community with opera. Your continued support is so much appreciated and is crucial right now.
March 20 Update
Your health is our top priority. Therefore, to continue to comply with local public health officials' recommendations around social distancing, Seattle Opera is cancelling our public events at the Opera Center scheduled through April 30, 2020. We believe this is best for our patrons, artists, staff members, volunteers, and community partners.
We are also carefully studying the feasibility of our La bohème performances in May, and we expect to let the community know our plans soon.
At this time, the following events are cancelled:
- March 14, 17, 21, 24, 28, 31, and April 4: Opera Time at the Opera Center
- March 15: Screening of Amadeus at SIFF
- March 21: Sing Along: Puccini
- March 24: Opera Talk with Jonathan Dean; will be available as streaming video
- March 29: Donor Recital with Sarah Larsen
- April 9: Teen Vocal Studio Masterclass with Ginger Costa-Jackson
- April 10: Artist Recital with Vanessa Vasquez
- April 11: Opera Time at the Opera Center
- April 13-17: Spring Break Camps
- April 14: La bohème Costume Preview for Subscribers
- April 16: BRAVO! Queens of the Night event (at Queer/Bar)
- April 17: Leontyne Price Community Stage Dedication
- April 21: Opera Talk with Jonathan Dean; will be available as streaming video
- Weekly Teen Vocal Studio programming and recital on April 18
We hope to reschedule some of these events later in 2020 if possible. However, in lieu of hosting public activities, Seattle Opera is planning to provide additional video and audio programming for our community during this period. Our next video broadcast event is an Opera Talk hosted by Jonathan Dean, Seattle Opera dramaturg, on Tuesday, March 24 at 7 PM. Please tune into Facebook, YouTube, or our website to watch the Opera Talk.
We will continue to post regular updates on our website and to communicate via email with patrons who have RSVP’d for events and purchased tickets. Also, Audience Services is open Monday through Friday 10 AM to 6 PM to answer your questions. Please call 206.389.7676 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we navigate the spread of the coronavirus disease in the greater Seattle area, Seattle Opera is committed to supporting the safety of Seattleites with care and compassion.
Thank you for your continuing support as we navigate this difficult time. If you require assitance with your tickets or credit on account please call Audience Services 206.389.7676 Monday–Friday, 10 AM–6 PM (hours subject to change) or let us know a good time to contact you by emailing email@example.com.